One of the first symptoms of a cold in children is usually a runny nose, with clear, thin mucous, followed by aches, a sore throat or coughing. As the child recovers, the mucous may become brown or green, and usually becomes thicker. Both types of excessive mucous can be classified as post nasal drip, and both can leave your child feeling miserable. Consider natural remedies before you reach for drugstore antidotes.
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Cold medications, such as decongestants and antihistamines, do not cure the cold, but relieve symptoms temporarily. Instead, focus on measures to boost your child's immune system and keep him comfortable while he recovers. After wiping the nose, apply petroleum jelly or other soothing ointments to the skin around the nose so it doesn't become dry and chapped. Use saline nasal drops to flush out mucous and prevent drying. Some facial tissue comes with moisturizer or saline embedded in it to relieve dryness.
Steam and Humidity
Steam and humidity loosens mucous in the chest and reduces drying of the nasal membranes. Turn the shower on hot and shut the bathroom door to steam up the room. Have your child stand in the steamy bathroom for at least 15 minutes. Her nose will probably run profusely -- help blow her nose to remove excess mucous. Run a warm-mist or cool-mist humidifier at night in your child's room for a similar effect. Keep warm-mist humidifiers out of reach of young children and clean humidifiers frequently to prevent bacterial growth.
Foods, Drinks and Herbs
Children often have little to no appetite when they are recovering from a cold. Offer light, warm foods and drinks, such as chicken soup, herbal teas and oatmeal, which reduces mucous production. Avoid dairy products for children age 12 months or over, as well as sugary foods, or foods with a high fat content. Digestion works less effectively during a cold, making these foods more difficult to process, according to Dr. Jerry Rubin, Denver pediatrician and co-author of "Naturally Healthy Kids." Horehound lozenges, available at natural food stores, can reduce mucous production and congestion. Follow package directions carefully and consult your pediatrician when using herbal supplements.
If natural remedies don't work, try antihistamines and decongestants. Unless symptoms are severe, though, avoid these medications because they thicken and dry the mucous, causing it to flow less freely, increasing the risk of bacterial growth and secondary infections, such as ear and sinus infections. Use antihistamines for a runny nose, decongestants for a stuffy nose. Cold medications are not labeled for use with children under 4. If you use over the counter medications, follow all package dosing information carefully. Talk with your pediatrician if you suspect the runny nose is related to allergies rather than a cold. Your doctor may prescribe effective prescription treatments instead.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Ask Dr. Sears.com: Coughs, Colds and Sinus Infections
- Healthy Children; Rhinovirus Infections; August 2010
- "Naturally Healthy Kids"; Jerry Rubin MD, et al.; 2006
- Healthy Children; Seasonal Allergies; May 2011